My cat sleeps in his litter box and defecates on a bed or by a door

Cat Behavior Problem

“My cat sleeps in his litter box and defecates on a bed or by a door. Can someone give me some ideas about stopping this as it is causing big problems? He used to be my mother’s cat. We had a cat and dog already so he’s had to fit in. I kept him in my bedroom when he first came to us. He is large and obese.”

Anxious Cat

Photo for illustrative purposes only and by Alikai. Collage by Michael

My Response

As usual, comments and different viewpoints are welcome.

Your cat is very anxious and nervous. In order to try and feel calmer he is sleeping in his litter box. His litter box smells of him and therefore it is a sort of comfort zone for him. He defecates on your bed because that marks your bed with his smell making the environment more friendly for him. He defecates by the door as the door is an important junction in the pathways of human, dog and the other cat. The intention in defecating there is to send a message through scent to the other animals that he is there and this is his place. It is classic territorial marking. Wild cats behave in exactly the same way.

Your cat is anxious and nervous because he is in a strange place with strange animals. It is a complete transplantation of his “habitat” and he is finding it very unsettling.

Perhaps he had a very quiet and settled life with your mother. The change has been a shock to him.

What To Do?

My immediate gut feeling is to relocate him to a new home where there are no other companion animals and single senior women of kind disposition and a warm heart. That would solve the problem. That might not suit you though. And it might be impossible to arrange. This is no criticism of you. It is just that the circumstances are not suitable for this cat.

Alternatively, you will have to figure out how to make your home more friendly for your new cat. That is going to be hard, I think, because you have an existing dog and cat. The newcomer may never really feel at home. He might be scared of dogs, for example.

If he has to stay with you it will take a gradual reintroduction of the existing companion animals to your new cat to make things work. That might mean separating them again, providing some secure personal space for your new cat and then gradually getting him used to the new family and environment. A good place for him to hide is necessary too.

It may be that you are out of the home at work quite a lot. That would add to the sense of insecurity. I wouldn’t expect anyone to change their work practices under these circumstances which is one reason why it might better if he was rehomed.


Being overweight is not a factor in his unwelcome behavior. However, it is obviously a health matter. Good quality, wet food dispensed in a controlled manner and some treats over a long time will lead to reduced weight. Spending some time playing with him might also help him lose weight and feel more at home.

Associated page: Cat relocation anxiety.

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My cat sleeps in his litter box and defecates on a bed or by a door — 6 Comments

  1. He needs places where he can get ‘up’ above the scene. So he can have a place he’ll feel safe. He is hiding in his dung to protect himself from a perceived threat. He is pooping in the bed to cover the scent of the humans from this threat. He needs an escape area that is all his own. Moving him out may work, but these are all signs of imbalance in the household. He needs somewhere that he feels is his own. All the animals will learn to get along with each other in time (most of the time) if they all have safe areas. If this isn’t an option, rehome.

    Got to hold a sweet 12 week old tabby today. He is a gift for one of my nieces. What a cutie. He was won in a Humane Society sponsored drawing this morning. We were so pleased. Now I have a cat at two nearby family homes! Hooray! My sibling I live with held him and immediately got puffy eyed! For about 10 seconds I thought ‘Maybe she won’t be allergic to this one..’ I’ll get another cat someday…

  2. ‘He used to be my mother’s cat’
    Did the mother die? If so this cat is still grieving, his safe world with his own safe person has vanished and he has to adjust to a new home. He now has to share his caretaker and share another cat’s territory, learn to get along with that cat and with a dog too.
    No wonder he is confused and clinging to his own safe smell (his litter box) and trying to recreate his safe world. Because he can’t do that, he is leaving messages about how unhappy he is (defecating on a bed or by a door)and telling the other cat and the dog he doesn’t want to be there, to please stay away from him.
    Maybe he wasn’t kept in the bedroom long enough to adjust to the loss of his previous caretaker, maybe he was expected to come out of that room and mingle with the others without any preparation, no chance to learn the scents of the house and the other pets before they were there ‘in his face’ With time and patience he might adjust but it’s unlikely now and I agree the kindest thing would be to find him a home on his own, he’s overweight, obviously been much loved and indulged and is still in shock at being thrust into a new life. He needs a lot of one to one attention, a good diet and to be made to feel as safe and loved as he was before.

    • Thanks Ruth. I think you are right in querying whether this cat’s former caretaker has died. It sort of looks that way. He may have had a long life with his former caretaker making it hard to adjust to what seems to be a noisy and active household.

  3. Hi Michael,

    Sad situation for the cat.

    I agree that sleeping in the litter box is probably because it’s the only thing that smells of him. Though the possibility exists that he may be litter box guarding. I don’t know if he was growling or chasing away the other cat or the dog if they got near the box. If he was, then he was litter box guarding.

    Interesting comments. Three different views on what’s behind the bed pooping.

    We have:

    1. Michael – pooping on the bed to mark with scent.

    2. Dan – pooping on the bed to protect the humans by covering their scent.

    3. Ruth (Kattaddorra) – pooping to leave a message because he’s grieving and is upset at so many new things.

    Well, I think it could be any one of the three reasons. I think that it could also be a combination. No way for us to know that it is only for one reason.

    1. It makes sense that he’d want to protect his new caretaker. If he feels threatened by everything, then he might think the human is in danger too. Not sure if that would be my first choice, but I can see the logic.

    2. Michael’s argument holds a lot of water because cats do mark for scent in order to protect themselves.

    What makes Michael’s argument so strong is that the bed pooping is paired with sleeping in the litter box. It’s logical to conclude that it’s all about familiar scent.

    3. Ruth pointed out a couple of important details: The cat is obese, which likely means he was loved and well looked after by his mother. She also cleverly pointed out that he just lost his mother and familiar, safe home. He is definitely grieving.

    Last, on top of grieving, he’s hit with a lot of change at once – including perceived hostile entities. He is thrown into a new house, new human caretaker, a dog, and a cat. Perhaps he is faced with loud children as well.

    From his point of view, the bed would be an ideal place to make a “clear” statement – pooping on it. In this case, the poop is the message rather than for marking with scent. It says that he’s really upset. He’s saying to give him his beloved old life back.

    There’s a fourth possibility – it may be a combination of 2 or 3 of the above. We have no way of knowing whether the poop is just to mark with scent or if it’s also a cry for help type of message.

    Perhaps he sleeps in the litter box to be with his scent – the only thing he has from his previous life. It may or may not be the same message as pooping on the bed. Hence the possibility of the two serving a different purpose.

    There also exists a fifth possibility: It may be a health issue – perhaps a bowl disease or obstruction. I doubt it unless it was going on at mom’s house but without knowing that I have to consider it. If it has already been going on, then he may need to see the vet for a potential medical issue.

    As an aside – the cat could be pooping on the bed to cover the scent of the other cat as a territory thing.

    So, what’s really going on? I don’t know exactly and not for sure, but good answers have been supplied in by other commenters. Maybe someone else with a different idea will weigh in.

    It’s cause for concern. This is major. The cat’s situation needs to be changed. He’s really upset and it shouldn’t be allowed to go on.

    What’s the solution? Definitely rehome the cat in a home that has one person and no pets. It’s grieving and there is too much to deal with in the current living situation. But first, take him to the vet to rule out medical issues.

    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

    • Thanks Liz. Fantastic comment, which rounds the information off beautifully. I hope anyone who has a similar “cat behavior problem” (which is really a human behavior problem and natural cat behavior) reads this page because the answers are here.

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